Tag Archives: vegetarian

Curried coconut lentil soup with flatbread

img_20180520_1157591Accra is pretty safe, we tell newcomers. Not like Juba or Jo’burg or other rougher places where friends live. I can Uber around town, or go shopping alone, and am generally more worried about malaria than mugging. We live in a nice gated compound, with 24 hour security, as recommended, and just got burglar bars installed on the kitchen side. Unemployment is high, and there has been more crime this year: cars held up at traffic lights, people mugged in daylight, a series of forex robberies and an increase in home invasions – quite a few of which have happened in the gated communities. I am happy the burglar bars are in place.


Fortunately the only invasion we have had in the new apartment has been ants. They are hungry and tenacious (even dried chickpeas are not safe) and various dry goods have been unceremoniously chucked into the new deep freezer to kill off the invaders. More ant-proof containers are in place, and the kitchen shelves are dusted down with ant powder. All quiet on the ant front this week. Just in case, I am having a pantry challenge this month, using up stockpiled food in shelves and freezer, so it was time for curried lentil soup, which has been lunch everyday this week.

Curried coconut lentil soup

* 1 cup dried lentils (I used green lentils, rinsed and picked over)
* 2 tsp olive oil
* 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
* 3 carrots, peeled and finely diced
* 2 green bell peppers, diced
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 tbs curry powder
* 1 tsp ground cumin
* 1/4 tsp cinnamon
* 1 bay leaf
* 1 tsp salt
* pinch of red pepper flakes
* 1 tsp turmeric, if you have it
* 1 tin diced tomatoes (400 grammes)
* 1 tin coconut milk 400 grammes) – save a splash for a decorative swirl if you remember
* 1 litre vegetable stock (I used stock cubes)
* salt and pepper to taste
Optional: soak lentils for a couple hours first (just too save cooking time on a hot day).

Heat the oil in a saucepan, and gently fry the onion and carrots for a few minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic and spices, and fry a couple more minutes. If you only have curry powder, that would be fine. Add tinned tomatoes, lentils, stock and coconut milk. Cook gently until lentils are soft, 20 minutes or so. (Longer is using dry lentils, maybe ten minutes of using tinned lentils.)

Note: Also might be nice in soup: fresh ginger, mustard seeds, coriander seeds: see what you have and what you like.


Flatbreads for soup (made 4 small ones)
250 grammes flour
4 grammes fresh yeast (or 2 grammes dry yeast)
½ tsp salt
1 clove minced garlic
175 ml water
1 tbs oil

To brush:
20 grammes melted butter
pinch of salt

Mix the dough, let it rise an hour or so. Heat the oven to 250C, with the baking sheet in the oven, Divide the dough in four and let it rest a few minutes, then roll out four naan. Bake on parchment paper on the hot baking sheet for five minutes or so, until golden. Brush with melted butter as soon as they come out of the oven.

Enjoy with a mug of hot soup (browsing look at royal wedding dresses and hats optional).


Creole potato-topped aubergine bake


A friend is traveling back to Accra tonight, and sent a picture what she is bringing back: asparagus, cauliflower, greens, Ryvita and red wine. Yes, we travel with vegetables! Accra does have vegetables, but sometimes limited options, and anything imported is SO expensive. I am thus always happy to read blogs with ingredients I can actually buy here (affordably), so I bookmarked Vegetarian Dad’s  Bombay Potato Stuffed Aubergines a few months ago. He has some excellent recipes.  I did intend to follow his recipe, but with  eeny-weeny baby brinjals rather than big aubergines, and a movie night waiting, this as what we made instead, which was rather a detour: sliced aubergines, gently cooked, then baked in a creole-spiced tomato sauce until quite silky, with a potato topping and a smattering of cheese. Those Bombay Potato Stuffed Aubergines are still on my to-make list, though, as they look amazing.


Creole potato-topped aubergine bake  (not pretty, but tasty)

12 small or 3 large aubergines (I used about 400 grammes)
40 ml sunflower oil
3 large onions, sliced
400 grammes potato, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbs creole seasoning  (salt, red pepper, black pepper, chili, garlic)
2 tsp Hungarian paprika
400g tin of chopped tomatoes

Optional: handful of cheese  (use a vegetarian cheese if you have it)

Slice the small aubergines into 3mm or thick slices, and batch fry them on both sides in a little oil.  If you have big aubergines, halve them before slicing them (mainly as this was destined for one-bowl eating in a sofa, with a fork. You may be a civilized person who eats dinner at a table  and even uses a knife – then the slice dimensions are entirely up to you.)  If you have olive oil, that is probably better. Do not crowd the aubergine slices. Fry until the aubergine is soft and starting to brown lightly. Take out the aubergine and put it in a baking dish (here, a square Pyrex).

Add a bit more oil, and gently fry saute the onions, garlic, diced potatoes and spices on a low heat for ten minutes. Add the tomatoes, and simmer for a further five minutes. The potatoes will still be a bit crunchy, but they are going into the oven next. (Note: I had planned to use cajun spices but was distracted and took the wrong tin…. so Creole potatoes it is! It was a rather old Creole spice mix, with black pepper, red pepper, garlic, salt – I use one tbs and did not add more salt and pepper, and you might need less spices, depending how spicy you like it. )

Heat the oven to 200C. Tip the spicy tomato-potato mix on top of the aubergine, and pop the baking dish on middle rack of the oven. I added a handful of leftover brie lurking in the fridge. The brie had been frozen and crumbled nicely. Of course, that is not generally a kind way to treat brie, but in a tropical country where cheese is expensive, freezing cheese is a tactical decision.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or so, until the tomato sauce bubbles up and the potato layer is cooked through (just past al dente) but not dry.

Optional: enjoy from a bowl in your lap, while watching “The Greatest Showman”.

……I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum…..
This is really not a pretty dish, and not what was planned, but it was actually very satisfying. The flavors and textures worked well, and the base layer of aubergines was really excellent. I’ll try some more variations of this.


Pre-travel roast beetroot soup with quinoa


Phew, third shower of the day and it’s only early afternoon….. Accra is getting stickier, about 32C and only 67% humidity, not really that bad. We hear Tamale (in the north) still has heavy harmattan, so we cannot really complain. This morning I’ve moved all my last things out of my friend’s storage room (boy’s quarters…. tiny), so my rented room is now a Jenga-like stack of kitchen tools, dismantled floor fans and suitcases.  I’m off to Rome for work next week, and had a plethora of vegetables in the fridge, so this roast beetroot soup with quinoa was concocted while schlepping bits of an office chair, a table top and legs, an increasingly rickety drying rack and more through the flat.

I have been flathunting in Accra with two colleagues, and we may now have found a nice flat. Discussions are still ongoing regarding burglar bars and lease agreement, but we are crossing our fingers for a move later this month. I gave away most of my moving boxes to friends last year so will be moving again in bags and baskets, and am just hoping that bed linens and clothes have not gotten too moldy since November. We shall see.


Really, you could make some variation on this with most root vegetables…. This is just what I had to use up before traveling. I try to buy local produce here, and was vaguely thinking of a beetroot risotto with feta, but soup is what these beetroots ended up in. Most of the soup will end up in the freezer so I have lunch ready for a few days when I am back in Accra, which might also be our moving week. After three months living out of suitcases, it will be very nice to actually unpack again.

Roast beetroot soup with quinoa and red rice

1 kg peeled beets, quartered  (about 2 pounds)
1 large diced potato, quartered
3 carrots, peeled (mine were wizened but fine for soup)
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 clove garlic, peeled but whole
1 tbs olive oil

4 stalks celery, diced (last of my precious post-Christmas UK celery)
2 green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
2 cm fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tbs olive oil

2 litres vegetable stock (here, from two stock cubes)
1/3 cup quinoa
1/3 cup red rice
2 tsp parsley
2 tsp rosemary
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Heat the oven to 220C. Line a baking sheet sheet with baking parchment or aluminum foil. Spread out the vegetables, drizzle over some olive oil and let the vegetables roast until soft when pierced with a sharp knife.  I left them in about 35 minutes, then turned off oven and left them in another 15 minutes or so.

In the meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a big saucepan, and gently fry the celery and bell peppers until soft. Then tip in the roast vegetables, 2 litres of vegetable stock and blend well with an immersion blender if you have one. Then add the quinoa and red rice (or plain rice, or lentils, whatever you feel like adding for a bit more body) and spices, and bring the soup to the boil. Cook until quinoa and rice are soft, 25 minutes or so. Taste and see if you want to add more spices, salt or pepper.


It was very nice! Quite thick, good flavours and a little crunch from the quinoa. Maybe some feta on top as well? It was a generous pot of soup, so six portions are now cooling and destined for the freezer, and there is plenty left for this weekend as well. Enjoy your weekend!